About eight years ago, a cigar retailer just outside of Indianapolis asked me to try some little perfectos from a brand I had never heard of called Falto. They kind of reminded me of Fuente Short Stories, only they were a little longer and a little thinner. That December, I get a newsletter from a shop announcing that they were carrying this same small brand. The Falto cigar brand is owned by La Garrita Cigar Company out of Puerto Rico, but it's not a Puerto Rican cigar. It's a Dominican cigar and it is has been quietly manufactured at La Aurora for 20 years.
Falto is owned by Luis Falto, who works very carefully with La Aurora to create his line. Maybe "line" is not the right word. There is one brand: Falto. But there are many sizes, and each size has its own blend. This isn't a gimmick. Falto really believes that any given tobacco blend can only truly excel in one size. That's not too uncommon.
Ask any cigarmaker about his blends, and he'll tell you which size is best in the line. But once Falto finds that perfect size, he goes no further. And that IS uncommon. He finds the perfect ratios, the perfect dimensions, and then he's done, completely uninterested in scaling the blend up or down. That's the entire brand. One blend per size. Or, probably better to say one size per blend. I must admit, there is a charming simplicity to that.
Then again, if you love the taste, but hate the size, you're out of luck. I can give you a perfect example. Falto makes an exquisite lancero called the Falto Dos Banderos Lancero (91 points, April 2015 Cigar Aficionado). It's a great cigar with a Dominican Corojo wrapper, a Brazilian binder and filler tobacco from the Dominican Republic and Cameroon. Interesting blend. But a lot of cigar smokers won't touch lanceros. I know that lances have a very passionate and dedicated following and lancero smokers are always looking for new and dynamic slender smokes to put into their smoking rotation. But those who have a penchant for fatter cigars will never even look twice at Dos Banderos. Pity. They'll have to turn to the Mentor, which measures 5 3/4 inches by 54 ring gauge. This cigar was named for Manuel Inoa, who is the operations manager and tobacco guru at the La Aurora factory.
Inoa has been recently titled Blend Master and conducts La Aurora's tasting seminars. He's also the one who Falto turns to when he wants to come up with a new blend. If you've never been to the La Aurora factory, it's home to libraries and libraries of all sorts of tobacco and, according to Falto, La Aurora gives him access to plenty of them.
Which brings us to Falto's newest creation: the Falto Los Procesos "Eminente," blended to celebrate his 20th year in business. The anniversary cigar not only measures 7 by 50, but is practically a case study in rare and, in some cases, unpopular tobaccos. But when I say unpopular, I don't mean that in a negative sense. I just mean that they are from seed varieties not too many farmers grow anymore for whatever reason. Like certain old wine grapes, tobaccos can also fall out of popularity with growers, brokers and producers. Maybe the crop yield isn't sufficient, maybe it requires longer fermentation time, maybe it's susceptible to disease in the fields. It could be any number of reasons.
So, what's in the anniversary blend? It starts with an Ecuadoran Havana 2000 wrapper. Not too exotic. Lots of cigarmakers use it. The binders are Ecuadoran, too. One is grown from a Cuban Havana Vuelta Arriba seed (HVA), but the other is a Dominican seed called Carbonell. There's a tobacco you don't see every day. I remember a conversation I had with Inoa once years ago. He said that Carbonell was one of the tobaccos used in a personal blend that late La Aurora patriarch Fernando León used to smoke before he passed away. Though, I don't think I've ever heard of Carbonell tobacco grown in another country.
The filler blend uses another uncommon tobacco variety called Negrito Canca, which is grown by Leo Reyes in the Dominican Republic. The Negrito Canca is combined with some Dominican Olor, but also with another Reyes tobacco called 20/20. Falto says that 20/20 is a Cuban hybrid seed developed by Reyes, and furthermore, Falto doesn't know of anyone using this tobacco. It's grown in small quantities. Sometimes this is why good tobaccos just sit around in a warehouse. The tobacco can be interesting and distinct, but there just isn't enough to justify a full-fledged production run so they get marginalized or forgotten. And those are just the kind of tobaccos that Falto is looking for.